A Letter of Wishes in a Will Explained

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What is a Letter of Wishes in a Will?

A letter of wishes is a document which is not legally binding, but it accompanies your Will. This can be used as a guide for your executors and trustees to ensure that they are aware of your personal wishes. 

The Letter of Wishes can also be known as an Expression of Wishes, Letter of Last Wishes or Statement of Wishes.

A Letter of Wishes is suitable for people who live in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland. 

What is in a Letter of Wishes?

You can include almost anything in a Letter of Wishes, including your specific personal wishes, and guidance as to how best to carry them out.

Common uses for a Letter of Wishes include:

  • Who to inform of your passing, or who not to inform
  • Specific funeral instructions, such as:  where you would like to be buried/scattered, song or floral requests, people who you do not want to attend, and the funeral service you would prefer
  • Listing your main assets including: bank accounts, life insurance policies, death benefits, and any particular items of personal/significant value 
  • Passwords for your accounts, social media logins, phone passwords
  • Guiding your executors as to how you would like any Trusts or money (e.g. life insurance pay-outs) managed
  • Helping your executors identify gifts from your Will, and where they can find them
  • Advising Guardians on how you would like your children to be raised (such as religious or educational preferences) and where they live (these details should be reviewed as your children grow up)
  • Providing explanations of why you have excluded someone from your Will, particularly if you think there is a chance they might challenge the exclusion

What cannot be in a Letter of Wishes?

You should ensure that the Letter of Wishes does not contradict your Will. If it were to do so, your Will (as a legally-binding document) would be followed instead.

The Letter of Wishes should be stored with your Will, or accompany it in a safe place (that your executor(s) knows about), but should not be attached to your Will in any way, as it could invalidate it.

How do I write a Letter of Wishes?

The document should be written in plain English, and can either be written by hand or typed. You should sign and date the document, but it must not be witnessed in the same way as your Will, so as to avoid any possible claims that it has become a legal Will or Codicil. If you are unsure what to write, you can start with an initial draft which you can share with one of our legal team to translate into a letter of wishes for you to approve.

Can a Letter of Wishes be challenged?

The wording of the Letter of Wishes should be as clear and concise as possible, to avoid any possible misinterpretation. Surviving relatives may feel their circumstances justify a departure from the Letter of Wishes - however, a clearly written Letter of Wishes would assist your executors in proving that they are following your wishes. The Letter of Wishes would be used by your executor to defend any claim against your estate in Court, as evidence of your intentions.

Can a Letter of Wishes be ignored by an executor? Do you have to follow a Letter of Wishes?

As a Letter of Wishes is not legally-binding, it does not have to be followed. You should choose executors/trustees that you trust to follow your wishes as closely as possible.

Why not include my wishes in my Will?

Your Will could become a public document if it goes to probate, whereas your Letter of Wishes remains confidential. Understandably, many people would prefer that their personal wishes remain private.

Your Will also needs to follow the legal format, or it may become invalid. The information in a Letter of Wishes is also subject to change, which means you won’t have to make a new Will every time you update your wishes.

Can I have a Letter of Wishes but no Will?

As the Letter of Wishes is not legally binding and a Will is, you should ensure that you have a Will in place. The Letter of Wishes simply accompanies your Will to provide guidance to your executors.

Contact Wills.Services today to speak to our specialist team, who can assist with your Letter of Wishes.

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